Walsall v Rochdale preview

Date published: Friday 30th December 2011 12:38

Walsall have no new injury or suspension concerns ahead of the New Year’s Eve match.

Manager Dean Smith watched his side grab the League One headlines on Boxing Day with two injury-time goals to see off Sheffield Wednesday and clinch a dramatic 2-1 victory – the struggling club’s first triumph in nine league outings.

Midfielder Claude Gnakpa stepped off the bench to bag an injury-time equaliser and the Frenchman may have played himself into contention for a starting berth against managerless Dale, although Smith will be reluctant to make too many changes to his XI.

Defender Manny Smith passed a fitness test to face the high-flying Owls and, having netted the late winner, will again start at the heart of defence alongside skipper Andy Butler.

Defender Olly Lancashire (hamstring) misses out again while fit-again midfielder Kevan Hurst is closing in on his return from a broken bone in his heel but may need more match practice before being considered.

Meanwhile, captain Gary Jones is fit to lead Rochdale as caretaker boss Chris Beech takes the reins for the first time.

Midfielder Jones was set to miss the Boxing Day clash against Tranmere due to illness, but structural damage to the Main Stand at Preston Park forced the game to be postponed.

As a result Beech has been forced to wait for his first taste of league management and he feels a delayed start to the post-Steve Eyre era could be beneficial to Dale.

“Taking the positives from the Boxing Day postponement, it gave us a few more days to work with the lads, familiarise them with what we’re asking them to do and perhaps look into strengthening the squad for the challenge ahead,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “In that sense, it’s been extra time to build towards that first game.”

Midfielders Joe Thompson (thigh) and Simon Hackney (abdominal) are long-term absentees, alongside defensive duo Marc Twaddle (back) and Pim Balkestein (groin).

Goalkeeper David Lucas will be assessed ahead of the contest having having suffered a head injury in the defeat to Sheffield United earlier this month.

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Walsall v Rochdale preview

Date published: Friday 25th February 2011 4:01

Walsall hope to include new signing Emmanuel Ledesma in their ranks for the visit of Rochdale.

The attack-minded Argentinian midfielder, who left Genoa last month, arrived on Friday afternoon on a deal until the end of the season and will be available should the necessary paperwork be completed in time.

The Saddlers will be forced to make at least one change for the encounter following Matt Gill’s return to parent club Norwich. The on-loan central midfielder saw his month-long stay at the Banks’s Stadium come to an end with last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Colchester.

That means manager Dean Smith has a decision to make as to who fills the void. Ledesma is now an option, subject to availability, while Richard Taundry could move inside from the right and forward Alex Nicholls revert back out wide.

Fit-again Jason Price, who returned to the bench against Colchester after a sore Achilles, would in turn come in to take his place alongside Jon Macken in attack.

Darren Byfield has resumed full training after five months out with a knee injury, although this weekend is likely to come too soon for the seasoned striker. Next Saturday’s trip to Swindon is a more realistic date for his involvement.

Rochdale manager Keith Hill has no major concerns ahead of the trip to Walsall.

Midfielder Brian Barry-Murphy sustained a cut above his eye in the recent home victory over Sheffield Wednesday and was replaced after just 11 minutes by Matty Done.

He looks certain to be available but Done, who had a hand in both goals in a highly impressive performance, is pushing hard for a starting berth.

Hill has no other injury or suspension concerns as his men seek to further enhance their play-off credentials against the struggling Saddlers.

The victory over the Owls, which maintained their play-off push, was Rochdale’s last match after their home clash with Southampton last weekend was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Spotland.

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